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Check Yes or No
That day the field trip wasn’t that bad. The trip was to the wetlands so it was a familiar one. What seemed like the only positive that came out of the trip was a day out of school. Reminiscing about that day in sixth grade made me realize the exact moment I made my mistake. Tracing backwards to the start of it all, my biggest mistake began in elementary school in class. Most people would think that a mere elementary school kid wouldn’t know a thing about love. Despite that stereotype, I knew what love was, and I knew I was in love.
She was beautiful in my sixth-grader eyes. When I first met her, my heart beat against my ribcage, and my stomach grew warm. I didn’t know how love would hit me but when it did, I sure did feel it. For months she would pass by me and say, “Hey”.
“Hey,” I’d reply meekly. I’ve never been a romancer or a “Romeo” per se so as a sixth grader that was the best I could come up with. Every time I saw her I would watch as her thin white smile lit up the room. Just the way she spoke could melt the coldest of hearts. She was beautiful to me even if my friends said they couldn’t see it. At the time I didn’t know that it mattered whether a girl looked good or not, and truthfully I didn’t care. All I knew was my feelings for her, and that was all.
As days went by, I would try to get her to like me, doing things to make her notice me. Even her talking to me would have been enough for me. Sitting at the back of the class, I would rush to the front trying to squirm my way next to her in the lunch line. At times where the teachers counted off people in groups I would count beforehand. That way I could place myself in a spot where I was in her group. I even made feeble attempts at humor when cracking knock-knock jokes:
“Why are you crying? It was just a joke.”
I wasn’t that funny back then either. Even when I made several attempts, it seemed that I couldn’t get her to notice me. All I wanted at the time was to love and be loved. I would’ve given anything just to know that she liked me. Now it seems kind of an extreme claim to say but as a kid I didn’t understand half the stuff I’m talking about now.
The end of the year approached, I was determined to win her heart. By this time I could have been considered a loner and a hopeless romantic. Even so I wasn’t going to lose her, I decided that I needed plan. At lunch I was sitting with her instead of my friends. I tried my hardest to get her to actually notice that I was alive. Just when I started becoming doubtful she ever would acknowledge my existence, she took notice, and we became friends. I would have liked to have been her boyfriend but I was content with friend.
Life seemed pretty good until the day of the field trip. The day started off simple and the weather was nice. On the way there, girls made fun of the boys and vice versa, not that different from a normal day. The trip was to the immensely muddy marshes every kid in our area affectionately called, the wetlands. This had been our third time visiting the wetlands and noting had changed since our last visit. The speeches were the same and the activities were essentially the same as we had remembered them.
Once we became friends, I stopped trying so hard to become her boyfriend. I knew that it wasn’t going to happen between us, and I’d never get her to like me. For some reason, though, I was okay with that. It seemed that just being her friend compensated for all the feelings and hard work it took to get her to notice me. It was as if I were happy just winning second place instead of going for the gold.
Since I wasn’t trying as hard, I didn’t attempt at getting in her group. So the whole day she was somewhere else while I was with another group, although throughout the day I would see her and she would see me. This back and forth became a game of tag between us, as we constantly searched for the other. I don’t remember why I was always searching for her, but what I did remember was her smile. Each and every time I even looked her way she would smile. Being the twelve year old that I was, I didn’t know what this smile meant. Whereas a girl might have debated whether it was an “I like you” smile or just a friendly smile, I thought nothing of it. I politely smiled back and continued on.
Then it hit me, what if she liked me? I hadn’t thought much of it since we’d been friends, but the question was ever-present. Could it have been that my plan had worked? Was it even possible for this to happen? I quickly dismissed these questions as nonsense and refused to think about them for the rest of the day, although it was too late and the seed of curiosity was sown, and with it grew back my feelings. Every thought, every feeling, every moment frozen by her gaze came back, creeping towards me with its mighty power.
When I got on the bus, I didn’t know what to expect, but fear of rejection prevented me from making any move whatsoever. I kept my feelings bottled up and my mouth shut, not wanting to make eye contact even though I knew she was looking at me, boring into my soul with her eyes and clutching my heart with their grasp. Then my world crumbled like a sand castle hit by the shore. When my eyes locked with hers she spoke these four words, “Do you like me?”
Four simple words were all it took to envelope the bus in silence and stop the world; four words that meant nothing to some, but had taken me months of working to hear. I wanted to tell her everything I felt, all the feelings I had for her and what she meant to me. Despite all my thoughts I wanted to say, I was speechless. I turned to my friend, a shaggy haired kid, for help or support. He and everyone else on the bus had heard her, and he looked at me with a solemn face saying, “Don’t do it, man.”
He never necessarily liked her anyway so I didn’t blame him for saying it. I want to say that what he said didn’t matter to me, but I contemplated his words. I was in sixth grade after all, and what did I know about being a good boyfriend? I stopped to think about whether if it was the right thing to do and if it was what I wanted, although it was those words that had pushed me over the edge. “Well?” she said.
“Well?” I heard my friend behind me tell me. It was time for me to say it, every word, every thought, and every feeling. It was time for me to tell her. With every bit of courage, all of my soul, and all of my love for her I uttered the word, “No.”